Are You a WOC Entrepreneur Working in the Care Economy? VEST Her Ventures Wants To Fund You
Erika Lucas left her six-figure salary in private equity and economic development to start a brand new firm with her husband. What may seem like an incomprehensible decision to some proved to be the best decision she could have made.
Six years after launching StitchCrew with her husband Chris, Lucas is raising $20 million to provide capital for women of color who are starting businesses, specifically in the Future of Work and Care Economy industries, through a new initiative called VEST Her Ventures.
Developed as an offshoot of VEST, a private network of professional women that Lucas started in 2020, VEST Her Ventures is looking to support women of color, specifically in “flyover” states like those seen in the mid and southwest, by providing capital that would previously have been nearly impossible to secure.
Lucas hosted a Ted Talk in 2019, about a year before launching VEST, to discuss why she felt compelled to help women of color start businesses of their own. Lucas explained that she came from a family of entrepreneurs who started small businesses in Mexico to support their children. She cites her single mother, who ran a flower shop out of her home while raising a family, as a major inspiration for the work she does now.
Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, Lucas feels it’s more important than ever to connect women with capital, particularly in red states, to balance the power dynamic and give women control over their lives and their futures.
“Decisions continue to be made for us, instead of by us,” she said. “That will only change when women are in positions of power in the private sector so we can drive the solutions to develop the future of work and fix our care infrastructure.”
According to a 2021 report from Pitchbook, only 2% of all venture capital funds released that year went to companies owned by women. For women of color, the numbers paint a much more dire picture. In the past decade of VC funding, 0.32% of funds went to Latina-owned businesses and 0.0006% went to businesses owned by Black women.
Basically, if you’re a Black woman looking for capital, your chances are as good as being one of the 21 people each year who die from skydiving… out of a total of 3.5 million jumpers. If you’re Latina, the chances are still less than half of one percent. The odds are stacked a mile high against women of color who want to own a business.
Lucas knows how much of a problem this is, especially as the demands of the market change. “If we want to see change and we want to see it faster, we must fund women, especially entrepreneurs focused on delivering solutions to redefine the way we achieve economic mobility and influence over markets, equitable policies and flow of capital,” she said.
As one of the few funds to be led by a mostly Latinx team, VEST Her Ventures will be far exceeding the national average, where Latinos make up just 2% of VC investment professionals and 2% of partner-level VC investment professionals.
VEST Her Ventures is looking to change the way women do business, by giving them the tools and access that were once reserved for those with generational wealth and ivy league connections.
This story has been updated for accuracy.